Teachers Share their Experiences While Living Abroad!

How a ChungDahm Teacher Celebrated Her First Christmas in Korea

Posted on Mon, Jan 04, 2016 @ 03:00 PM

Like many expats teaching in Korea, I assumed Christmas was going to be one big let down. That is to say, extremely sad and depressing, as I believed nothing could compare to Christmas at home in Canada with my family. Although celebrating Christmas in Korea was not the same, it also provided the opportunity to celebrate the holiday with my fellow ChungDahm teachers in different ways than I I had before. 

celebrating christmas in Korea

Christmas Lights in Hongdae.

Although South Korea has a large proportion of Christians (around 30%), the majority of the population identifies as not following a formal religion (over 40%). The remainder practice Buddhism, or other religions. One of the biggest differences between Christmas in South Korea and at home in Canada, is that a Canadian Christmas is a family event. You wake up Christmas morning- open gifts with your family, and after downing a massive quantity of turkey or ham spend the day in a pleasant food coma with relatives. In Korea however, Christmas day is known to be a "couples" holiday, where boyfriends/girlfriends, and husbands/wives buy special gifts for each other, and spend the day "romancing" . The beautiful lights and chilly weather create a cute atmosphere.

celebrating Christams in Korea

A Christmas service at Yoido Full Gospel Church in Seoul

The week before Christmas I visited the largest Christian church in the world, Yoido Full Gospel Church which is located in Western Seoul. It was interesting to hear some of the Christmas carols in Korean. As attending a church service is a typical Christmas tradition for my family, it was fascinating to attend a Korean service. While the entire service was in Korean, headsets were provided for foreigners with live translations in most major languages- English, Japanese, Chinese, French, Spanish and German. Even if you are not religious, I recommend attending one of Yoido's many services as a cultural experience. There were hundreds of people, even at a 2:30PM service. 

celebrating Christmas in Korea

Some of our gifts under the "Christmas Tree."

Although quite tired from some Christmas Eve Noraebang (which is Korean karaoke),I decided to host Christmas morning at my apartment, which was a relaxing and fun experience. I bought some cheap Christmas decorations and lights from HomePlus. I also threw together a delicious "magic" Christmas punch which involved a variety of fruit juices, some rum and wine. There's nothing like an expat Christmas!

celebrating Christmas in Korea

A sweet Christmas card from one of my April students. 

celebrating Christmas in Korea

My ChungDahm training group decided to participate in a Secret Santa gift exchange, done through Elfster, which is a convenient website that sets up a gift exchange for a group of people, if you are unable to get together to draw names from a hat. You simply enter in everyone who is participating, along with their emails, and it matches everyone up. It was super convenient and added some fun to our Christmas day. Thanks to my Secret Santa, I wound up with some amazing Kakao talk  swag- which are emojis from Korea's undoubtedly most used app-Kakao Talk. If you live in Korea, you will communicate over this app and grow fond of the adorable character emoji's. I promise. I was so excited to open my gift up to APEACH and MUZI. 

celebrating Christmas in Korea

Gift Exchange goodies

celebrating Christmas in Korea

Amazing socks from my Secret Santa Julian.

My advice to anyone who is spending their first Christmas away from family, is to put all your energy towards making Christmas day abroad as amazing as possible. For me, this meant organizing a fantastic get together with friends, and incorporating traditions we all were used to from home. Getting to Skype with family and friends from home was an important part of the day as well, and reminded me how lucky I am to have so many wonderful people in my life. 

All together, Christmas is always what you make it- although it may feel very different abroad, throughout the world Christmas is ultimately about spreading cheer, and spending time with those you care about.

celebrating Christmas in Korea

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